Rosa Sijben and David Bernstein, Something to hold on to, sculptural performance, SculptureCentre NYC, 2019.

The ambiguity of contemporary designer jewellery can give to the “uninitiated” one the feeling that jewellery can be everything. This is a feeling of insecurity, as many works on the borderline between art and author’s jewellery often carry an essence of a certain “jewellery-ness”, and, on the contrary, works of art have the characteristics of jewellery. How can we speak of works of original jewellery and by what criteria can they be evaluated?

Currently, a research project entitled The View from the Other Side – The Social Value of the Personal Object is being finalised, which focuses on the topic of the social overlaps and social value of the author’s jewellery. The theme resonates as interventions in public space, the use of alternative, performative exhibition approaches and organic overlaps into other artistic media increasingly appear in the work of younger and middle generation of jewellery artists. The research project sets a way of thinking about how contemporary jewellery making can be viewed from the perspective of its social interaction. This is meant by how jewellery works with its own performativity, temporality, the principle of play and other socially inciting strategies that activate to action.

Katarína D.F. Siposová, Environment, jewellery installation, HIT Gallery, Bratislava, 2017, photo: Ján Skaličan.

The research project was also initiated with the aim of creating a freely accessible index of scholarly and popular papers on the topic, which is currently available on sperkstret.

The opinion that jewellery as an art object cannot be thought of as a passive cluster of materials resonates in the contributions of the entitled authors. The process of reading a piece of jewellery generates the value of the object; the object summons the gaze, encourages the human touch and creates a tension between self and world, arousing interest and activity. Jewellery is interpreted as a process in which the meaning of the object is perceived as a social communication initiated only by wearing it on the body or with oneself. This is not a one-way reading of jewellery as an established sign, which is dependent only on the intention of the maker or wearer, but a reading also conditioned by the viewer, his or her personality, cultural and artistic background. The semantic ambiguity of jewellery as a sign, which is often subjected to unpredictable circumstances, is suggested. At the same time, the idea of it as an absolute object (an object that communicates a “clear” message) is disrupted, opening up a consideration of jewellery as an object that acts.

This interpretation of jewellery is complemented by a quote from the American jeweller Jennifer Lee Hallsey, who believes that jewellery has the ability to transcend its physical form, becoming a tool, a language that encourages encounters and discussion. In this context, the form takes on a different meaning and becomes a relationship between individuals around the object. “[…] When we talk about the function of jewellery, we should consider it not only as an object, but as a stimulus for the creation of relationships that arise through these encounters.

Katarína D.F. Siposová, White, jewellery event, Bratislava, 2018, video: Juraj Starovecký.

The research project formulated stimulating questions that reflect on the social value of the artist’s jewellery and expand thinking about the medium. One of the 7 contributors addressed is Indian philosopher and art theorist Pravu Mazumdar , who asks whether jewellery can become a gesture that circumvents traditional representations of the medium. “Can the precious stone in the solitaire be replaced by its gaze and the jewellery object seen as an act of seeing viewed from the perspective of the visibility of other things, circumstances, points of view?

Other thought-provoking questions arise in the texts. What is the strength of works that are built on direct interaction with the viewer, often working with the social overlaps of the medium in public space? Can the body be seen as an active force generating an independent form of artefact? Can one speak of the performativity of personal jewellery?

It turned out that the social value of the author’s jewellery is a complex statement about a complex process and its research brings new considerations, formulations of limits, boundaries, tensions that arise in the medium and that need to be defined. The search for answers to the social values and overlaps within the research project has opened up new possibilities of interpreting the author’s jewellery as a personal object, as a process and a jewellery action, and has opened up the question of a new social representation and presentation of the author’s jewellery in contemporary artistic practice. New meanings, forms and overlaps of the author’s jewellery have been formulated for theoretical research of the medium and the professional public as well as for the creators themselves, who reflect contemporary events and thinking within the medium.

Liesbet Bussche, Urban Jewellery, Antwerp, 2019, photo: author’s archive.

More about the project here: sperkstret
29 / 3 / 2022
by Katarína D. F. Siposová
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